Town centre shop vacancies are back to their highest ever recorded level in June, reaching a figure of 14.6%.
Britain’s empty high streets have seen a rise of only 0.05% since last month, according to the Local Data Company, however this takes the landscape of retail occupancy back to record heights.
Conversely, online sales are soaring as more and more consumers turn to the web as a more convenient, easy and hassle free alternative to heading to the shops.
Delivery charges alone have reached £3,523 million per year, which amounts to £136 per household.
These figures reflect the growing trends of online shopping as two thirds of people surveyed by Trimble said they turn to online shopping more than they did five years ago. This is a trend which is expected to continue to grow in the future.
While the number of empty shops return to an all time low, consumers in the UK have been shown to believe that high street shopping is a thing of the past.
7.6million adults would go as far as to say that the UK high street is dead and over fifth of all respondents would do the majority of their shopping online, if they could.
Director of the Local Data Company,Matthew Hopkinson was positive about the rise in vacancies.
He said: “June’s rise in shop vacancy should NOT be considered as a negative change…It shows stability in unstable times.”
Michael Weedon of the Deputy CEO and Communications Director British Independent Retailers Association said: “After three quarters of recession and the announcement of shop closures by the dozen from big multiple retailers the surprise is that the rate has not increased.
“Last year, we know from LDC figures, that was because independents opened 2500 nett new shops.”
“ Only one in two new businesses make it to celebrate their second birthday so some of those new shops may start closing this year. On top of that the BIRA quarterly sales monitor has shown that for independents … the downturn in the second quarter saw a 4.4% drop from 2.3% growth to 2.1% decline in just a three month period.
“The question is, can independents keep on propping up even this fairly poor vacancy figure?”
North East-based retail consultant Graham Soult, believes so: “A big trend that we’re seeing on the high street now is the growth of value chains and independent shops. Both are taking advantage of the affordable space that’s available in good locations, and this is helping to offset the impact of big-name collapses such as Peacocks, Game and Clintons.
“The best high-street retailers are also seeing the Internet not as a threat but as an opportunity: providing services such as click and collect, or using social media to build a buzz around their business and to drive footfall.
“No-one would claim that it’s an easy climate out there, but there are still plenty of opportunities for high-street retailers to do well if they’re creative and offer customers what they want: great value, convenience, and an enjoyable and distinctive experience instore.”
Image by Leon Smallwood-Dally